Adventures in Gluten-Free Eating

So I decided to try out a Gluten-Free Diet for a few weeks to see if it makes a difference in my health. Here are the products I’ve tried so far, using the following rating system:

* I wouldn’t buy this again. YUCK.

** It’s good, for Gluten-Free. But I miss my gluten.

*** Even if I stop this diet, I would still purchase this product because it’s THAT GOOD.

 

 

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Lily Bloom’s Kitchen: New York Style Cheesecake

Purchased from: Kowalski’s

Rating: *

Didn’t taste much like a cheesecake. A bit grainy with a hint of lime. No thanks.

 

Lily Bloom’s Kitchen: Chocolate Decadence

Purchase from: Kowalski’s

Rating: ***

OMG THIS IS SO GOOD.

 

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Lily Bloom’s Bakery: Caramel Apple Bread Pudding

Purchased from: Kowalski’s

Rating: **

This was good, but nowhere near as good as the Chocolate Decadence.

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Bittersweet Bakery: Peanut Butter Cookies

Purchased from: Kowalski’s

Rating: **

A suitable substitute for a real peanut butter cookie, but I wouldn’t mistake this for the real thing. Bittersweet Bakery is a completely gluten-free operation in Eagan, MN. I look forward to trying more of their products.

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Brody’s 579: Chocolate Cupcakes

Purchased from: Kowalski’s

Rating: *

There was an obvious amount of applesauce used in this recipe, which I didn’t care for. My four-year-old liked them…but she likes anything with chocolate. Usually, so do I.

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Brad’s Raw Crunchy Kale: Vampire Killer

Purchased from: Kowalski’s

Rating: *

I love Kale chips, but didn’t care for these. I would’ve liked them better without the vegan cheese. Also a bit traumatized after my four-year-old tried them and had an allergic reaction. They’re made with cashews…you’ve been warned. Not a pleasant experience.

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Udi’s? Blueberry Muffins

 

Purchased from: Whole Foods

Rating: *

I didn’t keep the box, but I believe these were Udi’s. Didn’t like these at all, only ate one and threw the rest away. A bit slimy and not very tasty.

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Suzie’s Quinoa with Olive Oil

Purchased from: Costco

Rating: ***

I bought these before I went Gluten-free, and I’ll keep eating. Super convenient and very tasty.

 

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Crunchmaster Multigrain Crackers

Purchased from: Costco

Rating: ***

My husband doesn’t care for these, but I love ‘em. Super crunchy and a great salty snack.

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Mom’s Best Crispy Cocoa Rice

Purchased from: Whole Foods

Rating:

Haven’t tried this yet.

 

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Mini Chocolate Cupcakes

Purchased from: Whole Foods

Rating: ***

Rich chocolate cupcake with creamy buttercream frosting. Hellz yes.

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Van’s Gluten Free Apple Cinnamon waffles

Purchased from: Whole Foods

Rating: **

I ate these with maple syrup and a dollop of cream cheese. Tasty, but I think I’d get sick of them pretty quickly.

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Against the Grain Gourmet Baguettes

Purchased from: Whole Foods

Rating: **

I made a Po’Boy-ish sandwich with crawfish tails and cajun remoulade. It was actually pretty tasty. I was pleasantly surprised.

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Garden Veggie Straws Sea Salt

Purchased from: Costco

Rating: ***

Love these. Like potato chips, but healthier.

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Snapea Crisps

Purchased from: Costco

Rating: ***

Pea flavored Cheetos. Sounds gross, but tastes good.

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Omission Gluten Free Pale Ale

Rating: ***

I did some research on Gluten Free beer before buying this, and the reviews sent me in the right direction. This is some tasty beer.

 

I’ll keep updating this thread as I try more products. Feel free to make some suggestions or ask questions on what I’ve already tried!

 

Flash-worthy Stories

I’m hosting a Flash Fiction workshop for my local writer’s group tomorrow, so I’ve been digging up examples of my favorite flash pieces. 

The first ones that came to mind were:

“Evil Robot Monkey” by Mary Robinette Kowal

Mary had me at “Evil Robot Monkey,” but the story actually lived up to its awesome title. I can’t get the image of a angry monkey sculpting clay out of my head.

“Like Origami in Water” by Damien Walters Grintalis

I loved this beautifully haunting tale of loss. Gorgeous.

“The Last Summer” by Ken Liu

This put me right into a nostalgic sense of wonder, and I ached for the days when my friends and I battled our own monsters with our army of My Little Ponies and shaved-head Barbies.

 

What are your favorite flash fiction stories? 

The Top Ten Ways to Suck at Social Media

I love social media. It has tremendous power to connect you to potential readers, other writers, and people in the publishing industry. A successful platform can jumpstart your writing career. However, so many writers ARE DOING IT WRONG.

In my title, I said “The Top Ten Ways.” Why? Because everyone is doing Top Ten or Top Twenty-Five lists, and I want to feel like I’m part of the IN crowd. Also, I’ve heard blog posts with numbered titles get more readers, so I’m experimenting.

But I lied. Really, there’s just ONE RULE, at least as far as I’m concerned.

1. STOP TRYING TO SELL ME YOUR CRAP

Yes, I know that’s what you’re there to do. But I don’t care.

I’m currently a member of three Facebook groups for writers. Rarely do I see a post that has any real content. Most posts are, “READ MY BLOG,” “BUY MY BOOK,” or some variant on those themes. I’ve completely given up on these groups because there is nothing but promotional posts clogging up the news feed.  (In fact, I’m about to leave those groups right now.)

Remember, just like the characters in our books, if the readers can’t connect to our characters, they won’t care what happens to him/her. Likewise, if I don’t know you as a writer, I won’t care about your stuff.

However, if you engage me as a person, I might care. Ask a question about the industry, about managing to write with a busy schedule, or the best book I read last year. Engage me as a reader, just like you should be doing in your writing. Then I’ll be happy to check out your blog, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll check out your book.

That’s how you sell your work.

On Twitter and Google+, I follow a few people who spam me every day with their book promotion. Usually I immediately unfollow, but these few folks provide other content I like, so I stick around. However, every time I see another tweet about their stupid book I seriously consider unfollowing them. If you want to keep your followers long term, STOP TRYING TO SELL ME YOUR CRAP. I don’t want to hear about it anymore. Just. Stop.

Again, engage me as a person with your witty comments or interesting links and I’ll stick around. Don’t give me a reason to unfollow you.

Social media is your friend, writers. Treat it like one.

My Bucket List

I’ve had this idea for a post for a while, but haven’t gotten around to posting it….until now.

I’ve always had an overabundance of hobbies (and potential hobbies). Too many interests, too little time. But, as a writer, I justified these interests by using them in my writing. Or at least that’s what I tell myself (and my poor patient hubby) to make it seem worthwhile.

I got to thinking, maybe it’s not so crazy to want to do all these wonderful things. Maybe it’s just a natural part of being a writer. Maybe it’s just a natural part of being a human who loves learning new things.

Today I learned to TANGO. I’ve always loved dancing shows like So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing with the Stars. The Argentine Tango has always been my favorite. My husband was kind enough to bring me to the Ballroom with a Twist show in Minneapolis last weekend, and I LOVED IT. I decided that night that I must learn to ballroom dance.

So I called Gene Bersten from Dance With Us in Edina and set up an appointment for their special introductory private lesson. I had that lesson today, and IT WAS AMAZING. I’m telling you, I was BORN TO TANGO.

I was probably terrible. But I loved every minute of it.

Because this was such a kickass day, I decided to create a bucket list. Because there are so many wonderful things to do before I die, or before I get too sick or injured to do them.

I’ve been in a crazy good mood all day. I loved this lesson so much that I can’t help but smile. I want every day to be this awesome.

And so I must create this bucket list, and resolve to fulfill my list, because TODAY IS OF TEH AWESOME, and I must have more of it.

So here’s my list (or what I’ve got so far…I’ll keep adding to it as I think of more crazy awesome things to do):

Goal #1: Ballroom Dancing

Awesome but Completely Unrealistic Version: Be a contestant on Dancing with the Stars. (Prerequisite: become famous first…see other goals below)

Realistic Version: Take ballroom lessons from a local studio.

Status: Took my first private tango lesson and KICKED-ASS!

 

Goal #2: Writing

Awesome but Completely Unrealistic Version: Quit my job and become a full-time, bestselling author. Make JK Rowling look like an impoverished bum.

Realistic Version: Publish a short story at a professional magazine.

Status: Short-listed at a semi-pro rate. I’ve subbed mainly to pro zines, because why start at the bottom when you might reach the top…? No publishing credits YET, but I hope to break through with a sale soon.

 

Goal #3: Art

Awesome but Completely Unrealistic Version: Quit my job and become a full-time artist.

Realistic Version: Sell a painting.

Status: I’ve had two gallery showings in the past 5 months, but haven’t sold a painting yet. So far, gallery showings appear to be much easier to get than sales.

On Tenacity and The Positive Side of Doubt

Tenacity is the key to success as a writer. This has become my mantra, the phrase I repeat to my writer friends, critique partners and anyone else who’ll listen. Tenacity is the key to success in anything.

I’ve heard too many stories of talented writers who stop after a single rejection slip — or maybe after a hundred. It doesn’t matter how many it took — what matters is that they stopped.

Don’t stop. Writing is not easy. Publishing your work is a nightmare. You’ll get beaten down. You’ll think you’re shit. You’ll probably cry. You’ll think it will never happen for you.

Go ahead and think these things — we all do — but DON’T STOP!

I’ve come across three thoughtful essays in the past two days that truly spoke to me on doubts and tenacity.

Octavia Butler’s “Positive Obsession”

I just read this essay in Butler’s collection, “Bloodchild.” Her standpoint is from being the only Black woman in her field at the time, but I think it speaks on a broader level, to all writers who doubt their talent.

“You’re supposed to know you’re as good as anyone. And if you don’t know, you aren’t supposed to admit it. If anyone near you admits it, you’re supposed to reassure them quickly so they’ll shut up. That sort of talk is embarrassing. Act tough and confident and don’t talk about your doubts. If you never deal with them, you may never get rid of them, but no matter. Fake everyone out. Even yourself.

I couldn’t fake myself out. I didn’t talk much about my doubts. I wasn’t fishing for hasty assurances. But I did a lot of thinking – the same things over and over.

Who was I anyway? Why should anyone pay attention to what I had to say? Did I have anything to say? I was writing science fiction and fantasy, for God’s sake. At that time nearly all professional science-fiction writers were white men. As much as I loved science fiction and fantasy, what was I doing?

Well, whatever it was, I couldn’t stop. Positive obsession is about not being able to stop just because you’re afraid and full of doubts. Positive obsession is dangerous. It’s about not being able to stop at all.”

Eugene Cross, “A Powerful Sort of Doubt (Click link for full article)

I saw this on Google+ today, and it reminded me of John Cleese’s quote on why stupid people don’t know they’re stupid. Eugene discusses the tone deaf singers on American Idol, who appear completely confident they’re the next big thing. Read the whole essay (it’s not long) because there’s good stuff there.

“That confidence, that complete lack of doubt, shows a lack of talent. Those singers are so confident because they don’t have a musical ear. They can’t tell that they’re tone-deaf, that they don’t have the talent for song (or else they’re just looking for their fifteen minutes.) They are devoid of doubt and consumed by confidence because they can’t hear how the song should be or can be sung. And so when we as writers doubt our own work, it’s because we realize that it is not yet where we want it to be. And so we keep trying, keep at it, over and over and over again. We collect our rejection slips. We revise the same sentence dozens of times. We read our work aloud and torture our thesauruses and slam our heads against the wall, until we get it right. Because we know we can. Because we know it can be better. I can’t thank Bausch enough for teaching me this, for taking something that keeps so many of us away from the page and explaining it for what it is, a positive sign that the work we have chosen as our life’s calling is actually the work we were meant to do.”

Ira Glass, “The Gap”

I’ve seen a pretty poster version of this quote floating around the interwebz for years. Every time I see it, I scream “YES!” in my head and do a little happy dance. I wish someone had shown this to me when I was younger. I’ve always been a perfectionist who gave up when doubts surfaced, when frustration took over, when I realized I wasn’t as good as the people I admired. I wish I had stuck with it. But I get it now, and I won’t stop.

“What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me . . . is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not.

But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story.

It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

So there it is. Be positively obsessed with your writing (or whatever it is that you do…this advice is good for any creative endeavor). Be so obsessed that no amount of rejection will stop you. Embrace your doubts. They are the fuel that will make you burn brighter. And mind the gap. It’s gonna take awhile, you just gotta fight your way through.

I’m In Love With Your Homunculus

I attended MinnSpec’s February meeting this past Sunday called “Love Stinks: Writing Dysfunctional Relationships.” Our panelists were Catherine Lundoff (author) and two therapists: Sherry Merriam and Rebecca Chesin.

We discussed many different theories and ideas, but one that stuck with me was Sherry’s version of the homunculus theory. I’m not sure if this was her idea or if she got it from someone else, but either way, it made a lot of sense to me.

A homunculus is typically defined as “a little human in your head.”

As she explained it, you contain an image in your head of every person you meet. Every relationship you have is with your personal homunculus of that person, not the actual person. So when you’re in love with someone, you’re really in love with their homunculus.

In other words, you’re in love with your idea of the person, not the actual person.

Problems arise when your homunculus doesn’t match up with the real deal.

Let’s look at an example. You meet Dave, and he’s a great guy. He tells you Shakespeare is his favorite writer, but he’s just saying that because he wants to impress you. You attribute this information to your homunculus. Your Dave-monculus loves Shakespeare.

Years later, Dave confesses. You have a conflict. You realize your Dave-monculus is not the man you married.

You hear couples talking about this. “You’re not the man I married.” No, you married Dave-monculus. “You’ve changed.” Maybe, or maybe your Dave-monculus was just wrong.

Issues can arise without one party lying. Perhaps you project qualities on Dave’s homunculus without really knowing what Dave wants. You want kids, and you’ve never asked Dave about it, but since he gets along so well with your nephew, you decide Dave wants kids too. Dave-monculus wants to make babies, Dave does not.

You’ll never know someone 100%, so there will always be differences between your homunculus and their real-life representation.

So how do we interact with others knowing it’s via proxy (through a homunculus)? An unchangeable homunculus will cause problems. You must keep yours flexible enough that when new information filters in, you can modify your homunculus as necessary.

I think there’s plenty of fodder here for writing, but it’s also useful information for real-life relationships.

What do you think? And more importantly, what does your homunculus of me look like?

Review: Fantasy & Science Fiction, JAN/FEB issue

NOTE: I received a free copy of the new issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction in exchange for blogging my review.

There were two stories in this issue I loved: “Maxwell’s Demon” and “The Color Least Used by Nature.” Beautiful stories, delightful language and both haunted me long after I read them.

Below are my thoughts on each story. I don’t post overviews because I don’t want to give away the plot. I like to let the writer reveal the plot as s/he feels necessary for their story. That’s one of the joys of reading – discovering the plot as it unfolds.

“Small Towns” by Felicity Shoulders

I enjoyed this story a lot. I loved meeting the two main characters and imagining how they would come together was a lot of fun. However, the ending felt strange to me. It wasn’t as believable as I wanted it to be, but otherwise a really great story.

“The Comfort of Strangers” by Alexander Jablokov

This one was a lot of fun. I loved the originality of the premise. However, I wanted a driving goal for our main character, but she didn’t seem to have one. It was a series of events, wrapped up with a sufficient ending, but the drive wasn’t there for me. What did she want? How did she change over the course of the story?

“The Secret of the City of Gold” by Ron Goulart

A hard-boiled detective story with a fantastical edge. I’m not a huge mystery fan, and this story was fun, but not my cup of tea. It was well written and entertaining, but not terribly original.

“Maxwell’s Demon” by Ken Liu

My favorite of the bunch. I sympathized with Takako and went on the journey with her. The story was fascinating, the language was beautiful, and the ending left me wanting more. An engaging read with a great MC. Love, love, love.

“Scrap Dragon” by Naomi Kritzer

I really enjoyed the way this story was told, as if the reader was arguing with the writer on the direction of the plot. It brought me into the story, made me laugh, and I left like I was part of its creation.

“Umbrella Men” by John G. McDaid

I enjoyed this one. The idea was interesting and the writing kept me engaged. I found the beginning a little confusing, trying to figure out who was who, but in the end I thought it was entertaining.

“In the Trenches” by Michael Alexander

I felt the pain of war and the dreary tedium of living three years under the “booms.” I liked the kobold angle, but at times this one felt a little preachy to me. Still a great story.

“Alien Land” by K. D. Wentworth

A hilarious take on alien invasion. I loved the premise of this story and the bored housewives whose revulsion at the new neighbors turned to delight. A joy to read.

“Canto MCML” by Lewis Shiner

I liked this one, but I wanted more explanation. It was very short and it only touched the surface of what the story was about. I felt like an outsider, removed from the story and only privy to certain bits of information. I felt excluded from what was really happening.

“Mindbender” by Albert E. Cowdrey

This one was good fun. I enjoyed how the paths between the characters came together in the end. The characters were believable and their actions, while irritating at times, were on point. It was an entertaining story.

“The Color Least Used by Nature” by Ted Kosmatka

I also loved this story. I’ve been to Kauai’i twice, and the descriptions of the island and the ocean coincided greatly with my wonderful memories. It felt real and believable, and at times, I cried. Beautiful story and lush imagery. Very well done.

It Came From the Slush Pile

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Yesterday we had our MinnSpec slush pile meetup. Eric, Michael and I sat on a panel with our leader, Hilary, before an audience of writers as we crushed their poor hearts. At the end, some were visibly shaken, but most took it pretty well. No one shot at us, at least.

Each panel member voiced their opinions on 11 stories, posted anonymously. We discussed where we stopped reading each story and why. Some of it was pretty harsh to hear, but I think it’s important for writers to have this information, so I hope they use it to their advantage. You’re not likely to get this information from rejections these days (most use generic rejection forms).

Here’s the takeaway from our panel’s opinions:

Start your story in the right place

Many of the stories we read started in the wrong place with events or characters that weren’t integral to the plot. Some had prologues, which tend to have the opposite effect than writer intended (decreasing interest in the story rather than increasing it).

Opening lines and hooks matter

Many stories I read, I would have rejected within the first few paragraphs. I wouldn’t reject a story at the first line, but many gave me pause enough to make me doubt the story. That’s not a good way to start off a reading.

Embrace the power of your opening line. That first sentence can provide enough fuel to carry me through to the end of a story, even if the story isn’t that great. There was one story I read with an awesome first sentence. I was so excited to read that one. That’s exactly what you want to happen when you submit your stories.

We need to care

Don’t start in the middle of a action-packed scene if we have no idea who the characters are, because if we don’t care about them, we don’t care what happens to them. It’s action with no drama, and it bores the reader.

Action that doesn’t build plot

This is one I see in a lot of stories I critique as well. The character goes somewhere and does something normal with no consequences or goal in sight. A character is grocery shopping. Driving. Eating. Walking.
Your readers are bored.

Grocery shopping isn’t enough to keep interest alive. However, if your character is late for a job interview … and she needs to drop the baby off at a sitter … but the store is out of diapers … and now the baby’s just had an accident … and now her suit is ruined … but if she doesn’t get this job she’ll lose her house …

Adding a goal, obstacles and/or consequences will create a plot, not just a wandering character.

Tenacity and Thick Skin

Perhaps the most important ingredient in making a successful writer: tenacity. Michael told a story about writers he’d met who were far more talented than he, but they gave up after a few rejections. I gave up too, in college after professors complained about my writing, and only recently got back into it. I think we’ve all heard the stories about rejected authors making it big (JK Rowling), but understand that EVERY author has to deal with rejection. YOU WILL GET REJECTED. Your feelings will be hurt. It sucks.

Michael said he has over 1000 rejections in his writing career. But he didn’t give up, and he’s got over 80 published short stories, a novel and a few novellas under his belt.

Don’t give up. Keep working. Keep learning. Keep growing. You’ll get there eventually.

On Hatred

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HATRED.

This is a topic that’s been on my mind a lot lately.

I see it in politics. I see it in churches. I see it every day at work, while shopping, on the internet.

People hate a lot of things, but lately this hatred appears to be focused on homosexuality. It feels as if we’re in the middle of the civil rights movement of our generation, and twenty years from now, we’ll look back and wonder how people could be so passionately against gay marriage. I hope that is the case.

I love the “It Gets Better” videos and the powerful voices we are hearing against bullying and hatred. People are talking more openly about bullying and hatred, schools are trying to find ways to improve and protect students, but we can do better. We need to do better.

I read this today, and it really made me think about my life, my views on religion, and what I can do to make it better. Here’s what I can do: I can talk about it. I can be one of the many voices speaking out against HATRED.

Remember this:

You’re not better than anyone else. You can’t see into the minds of others; you can’t see their past and the obstacles thrown at them. You can’t read their inner thoughts or feelings to determine if they’re a “good” or “bad” person. But you can see yourself and how you treat others.

Let’s focus on yourself.

Christians, you aren’t a better Christian than anyone else. We all have our faults, but if you’re truly a Christian you know you have no right to judge anyone else. You’re supposed to love people, not judge them.

Let’s focus on unconditional love, charity, and the spirit of brotherhood that Christians preach.

Give people the benefit of the doubt. Assume they mean well, instead of assuming they are out to get us. Look at everyone with love in our hearts and show them that with our warm eyes and generous smile. Maybe even wave now and then (I know hugs are too much to ask of Scandinavians, you know).

Let’s focus on kindness.

Don’t worry about love. Love is awesome. Two consenting adults, looking each other in the eye, ready to spend their lives together — that’s a beautiful thing.

Let’s focus on the beauty.

Twenty years from now, I hope, we’ll look back and be ashamed at the members of our government who rose to publicity with hate speeches. We’ll wonder why anyone would support constitutional amendments that deny rights instead of protecting them, the same way we look back at the civil rights movement and wonder.

Let’s focus on what really matters.

LOVE.

Flash Fiction Challenge: The Evasive Existence of Ernestine Eaton

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My story for the TerribleMinds Challenge: An Affliction of Alliteration

The Evasive Existence of Ernestine Eaton

Ernie blinked out of existence just after lunch, when a stringy skirt steak and red pepper wrap sat like a dumbbell at the bottom of her stomach. Instead of sitting through hours of tedious unit testing with a painfully tight stomach, she disintegrated.

Ernie embraced the nothingness and basked in the glow of oblivion.

When she blinked back into her physical form, she was alone in her office. The lights were out and the hum of the furnace fan played rhythm guitar to her sliding yawn.

She tried logging into her computer but it wouldn’t accept her password. She shrugged, and wandered over to the break room to make a pot of coffee.

After filling up on caffeine, she left the building to find her car. Once outside, the bitter cold stabbed her skin, and she remembered her car keys were in the pocket of her jacket, hanging from her cube wall. She hopped back to the building while shivering in the subzero Minnesota winds, and angled her access card in front of the badge reader. The light blinked red. She tried it again to no avail.

Ernie pulled her phone from her pocket to call a cab and saw the voicemail icon with a red 12 circled in the right-hand corner. After accessing her voicemail screen and thumbing through the list of missed calls, she skipped over messages from her mother, her roommate, and a few from numbers her phone didn’t recognize. She listened to the messages from her boss, and realized she hadn’t been in the office for five days and had been fired.

Ernie’s heart sank. It was getting more difficult to determine the lengths of her vacations, and she’d overshot this one big time. She threw her phone to the ground and watched little fragments of plastic and metal scatter across the frozen sidewalk before she blinked out of existence once more.

When she rematerialized this time, it was warm outside. The sun lit her face and she pulled off her sweater and wrapped it around her thin waist. Her phone was gone, but she still had her wallet with twenty-two dollars cash. She walked to the corner, waiting for traffic to die down before she could cross, and nearly missing the number seven bus in the process. Thankfully the bus driver saw her flailing arms across the street and waited for her.

Ernie didn’t bother going back to her apartment in Uptown. Judging from the change in weather and the length of her restful sojourn, she’d been gone a long time. She went directly to her parents’ house in Plymouth, hoping for a nice homecooked meal. It felt like ages since she’d eaten, and now that tortilla-wrapped brick had dissolved, she was ravenous.

She entered the code on their garage panel, but the panel lights blinked and the door refused to budge. Frustrated, she stomped up their front walk and rang the doorbell. As she waited, she noticed a change in landscape surrounding their door, instead of the typical evergreen shrubs beside the porch and annuals in pots, there were rolling mounds of vibrantly colored flowers loitering around their front stoop.

When the door finally opened, a stranger stood beside it. She had long blonde hair and bright blue eyes, and Ernie could hear children playing in the family room.

“Yes?” the blonde said. Her body was turned so she could keep one eye on the kids and the other at the door.

“Um,” Ernie said. “I’m looking for my mother.”

The blonde’s eyebrows raised as the door inched shut.

“She used to live here,” Ernie said, wondering how long she’d been missing this time.

“Oh, wait, you’re that daughter. I’ve got an envelope for you somewhere.” The door shut behind her and Ernie twirled in a slow circle with her fingers in her pockets. She whistled as she stepped out onto the lawn and warmed her face in the bright sun. The door click open and Ernie turned to find the blonde back in the doorway.

“Your mother left this for you,” she said, and after she handed Ernie the envelope she shut the door. Ernie sat in the lawn, and wondered at the grass so green and perfect that it couldn’t possibly be real. She slid her fingers down one cool strand of grass, then sliced it in half with her thumb nail. It severed easily. She shoved the strand between her teeth and whistled a long loud shrilling note, then sucked on the grass while she opened the letter.

 

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Ernie crumpled up the letter and threw it on the lawn. She felt a shudder roll through her body and panic swept through her chest. She lay back in the grass, breathing in the smell of flowers and recently mowed grass, then sighed before dissolving once more into the blissful nonexistence of the void.

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